I received a handout (via a Listserve) giving information about the software and hardware to “create online lectures from your in-class lectures.” The idea is, that with a computer plus over a thousand dollars in hardware and software, you could record your “live” lectures and convert them right over to online lectures.

Here’s my response: Is this really something we should be doing?

Numerous studies have already shown that traditional “lecturing” is really not all that effective. Why, then, take a non-effective method and directly convert to online with it. If students don’t want to watch a 60 minute lecture in person, what makes them any more likely to watch that in-person lecture if it’s online?

Online, we have all these wonderful forms of media… animations, audio, images, asynchronous discussions, interactive software, online homework, and the ability to teach in much shorter segments: for example, four 15 minute lessons interspersed with activities and homework instead of one 60 minute lesson followed by several hours of homework.

Design for the internet and build your learning environment for the new media. Sure, it might be easy to just directly transfer what you do in a traditional classroom to an online environment, but there must be some good reason why we don’t just record ourselves giving a lecture on factoring trinomials once, and then wheel a TV cart into the classroom semester after semester to give the lecture for us.

Redesigning my media to work in an online environment (for calculus) has taken hundreds of hours. But, at the end, I can honestly say that much of the learning material is better than what I did in the traditional classroom this semester. After each in-person lecture, I would reflect on the topics that did not seem to sink in well during the class time, and consider how I might redesign it in “media-format” to do it better.

Just a thought about adapting to use new technology: When the horse and buggy were replaced by the automobile, I’m sure there were some folks that envisioned a couple of horses pulling the automobile instead of the buggy (missing the whole point). I think we’re now seeing a little bit of this thinking about the Internet. It’s not an upgrade to the buggy … it’s an upgrade to both the horse and buggy.

I think that our years of classroom experience act as a stumbling block to our ability to adapt to the online environment. When you design an online math course, forget what you know about teaching a class in a traditional classroom of 30 students, and remember that you’re on the Internet now. Start from scratch and ask yourself “if I could do anything, what would I do?”

So you may need to learn a little along the way… you can handle that, right?

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